CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA (new Advent/ abriev./ See 5a -full)
Origin of the word: Etymologically, modernism means an exaggerated love of what is modern, an infatuation for modern ideas, “the abuse of what is modern”, as the Abbé Gaudaud explains (La Foi catholique, I, 1908, p. 248). The modern ideas of which we speak are not as old as the period called “modern times”. Though Protestantism has generated them little by little, it did not understand from the beginning that such would be its sequel. There even exists a conservative Protestant party which is one with the Church in combating modernism. In general we may say that modernism aims at that radical transformation of human thought in relation to God, man, the world, and life, here and hereafter, which was prepared by Humanism and eighteenth-century philosophy, and
The term itself he defines as “the ambition to eliminate God from all social life”.
With this absolute modernism he associates a more temperate form, which he declares to be nothing less than “liberalism of every degree and shade” (“Le Modernisme dans l’Église d’après les lettres inéditesde Lamennais”, Paris, 1881).
The Encyclical “Pascendi” (8 Sept., 1907) put an end to the discussion. It bore the official title, “De Modernistarum doctrinis”. The introduction declared that the name commonly given to the upholders of the new errors was not inapt. Since then the modernists themselves have acquiesced in the use of the name, though they have not admitted its propriety (Loisy, “Simples réflexions sur le décret ‘Lamentabili’ et sur l’encyclique ‘Pascendi’ du 8 Sept., 1907”, p. 14; “Il programma dei modernisti”: note at the beginning)
The essential error of Modernism
A full definition of modernism would be rather difficult. First it stands for certain tendencies, and secondly for a body of doctrine which, if it has not given birth to these tendencies (practice often precedes theory), serves at any rate as their explanation and support. Such tendencies manifest themselves in different domains. They are not united in each individual, nor are they always and everywhere found together. Modernist doctrine, too, may be more or less radical, and it is swallowed in doses that vary with each one’s likes and dislikes. In the Encyclical “Pascendi”, Pius X says that modernism embraces every heresy. M. Loisy makes practically the same statement when he writes that “in reality all Catholic theology, even in its fundamental principles the general philosophy of religion, Divine law, and the laws that govern our knowledge of God, come up for judgment before this new court of assize” (Simples réflexions, p. 24). Modernism is a composite system: its assertions and claims lack that principle which unites the natural faculties in a living being. The Encyclical “Pascendi” was the first Catholic synthesis of the subject. City once again returns to Pascendi – Our Modernism Catechism.- Theologians .
I. THEOLOGICAL IMMANENCE AND SYMBOLISM.
Q. At this point the way is opened for us to consider the Modernists in the theological arena a difficult task, yet one that may be disposed of briefly. What, then, does their system seek to do ? A. It is a question of effecting the conciliation of faith with science, but always by making the one subject to the other.
Q What is the Modernist system ? A. In this matter the Modernist theologian takes exactly the same principles which we have seen employed by the Modernist philosopher the principles of immanence and symbolism and applies them to the believer.
Q. What is the process ? A. The process is an extremely simple one. The philosopher has declared : The principle of faith is immanent; the believer has added : This principle is God ; and the theologian draws the conclusion : God is immanent in man. Thus we have theological immanence.
‘So, too, the philosopher regards it as certain that the representations of the object of faith are merely symbolical ; the believer has likewise affirmed that the object of faith is God in Himself ; and the theologian proceeds to affirm that : The representations of the divine reality are Symbolical. And thus we have theological symbolism.’
Q. What judgment must be passed on this theological immanence and symbolism ? A. These errors are truly of the gravest kind, and the pernicious character of both will be seen clearly from an examination of their consequences.
Q. To begin with theological symbolism, what consequences follow from it ? A. To begin with symbolism, since symbols are but symbols in regard to their objects, and only instruments in regard to the believer, two consequences follow.
Q. What is the first consequence ? A. ‘It is necessary, first of all, according to the teachings of the Modernists, that the believer do not lay too much stress on the formula as formula, but avail himself of it only for the purpose of uniting himself to the absolute truth which the formula.’, at once reveals and conceals, that is to say, endeavors to express, but without ever succeeding in doing so.
Q. What is the second consequence? A. They would also have the believer make use of the formulas only in so far as they are helpful to him ; for they are given to be a help, and not a hindrance.
Q. Must, then, the believer employ the formulas as he finds them convenient ? A. Yes, answers the Modernist, but with proper regard for the social respect due to formulas which the public magisterium has deemed suitable for expressing the common consciousness, until such time as the same magisterium shall provide otherwise.
Q. And, as regards theological immanence, what is really the meaning of the Modernists ? A. Concerning immanence, it is not easy to deter mine what Modernists precisely mean by it, for their own opinions on the subject vary.
Q. What are these different opinions of the Modernists, and their consequences ? A. Some understand it in the sense that God working in man is more intimately present in him than man is even in himself, and this conception, if properly understood, is irreproachable. Others hold that the divine action is one with the action of nature, as the action of the first cause is one with the action of the secondary cause ; and this would destroy the supernatural order. Others, finally, explain it in such a way which savors of Pantheism, and this, in truth ; is the sense which best fits in with the rest of their doctrines. (p38)
I. DIVINE PERMANENCE.
Q. With this principle of immanence is there not, according to the Modernists, another one connected? A. With this principle of immanence is connected another, which may be called the principle of divine permanence?
Q. In what does this principle differ from the first? A. It differs from the first in much the same way as the private experience differs from the experience transmitted by tradition.
Q. That is not very clear. Will you not explain this doctrine? A. An example illustrating what is meant will be found in the Church and the Sacraments.
Q. What do they say about the institution of the Church and the Sacraments ? A. The Church and the Sacraments, according to the Modernists, are not to be regarded as having been instituted by Christ Himself.
Q. But how is that ? How is the immediate institution by Christ of the Church and the Sacraments opposed to the principles of the Modernists? A. This is barred by Agnosticism, which recognizes in Christ nothing more than a man whose religious consciousness has been, like that of all men, formed by degrees; it is also barred by the law of immanence, which rejects what they call external application; it is further barred by the law of evolution, which requires for the development of the germs time and a certain (p40) series of circumstances ; it is, finally, barred by history, which shows that such, in fact, has been the course of things.
Q. In that case the Church and the Sacraments have not been instituted by Christ ? A. Still it is to be held, they affirm, that both Church and Sacraments have been founded mediately by Christ.
Q. But how? That is, how do the Modernist theologians endeavor to prove this divine origin of the Church and the Sacraments? A. In this way: All Christian consciences were, they affirm, in a manner virtually included in the con science of Christ, as the plant is included in the seed. But as the branches live the life of the seed, so, too, all Christians are to be said to live the life of Christ. But the life of Christ, according to faith, is divine, and so, too, is the life of Christians. And if this life produced, in the course of ages, both the Church and the Sacraments, it is quite right to say that their origin is from Christ, and is divine.
Q. Do the Modernist theologians proceed in the same way to establish the divinity of the Holy Scriptures and of dogmas? A. In the same way they make out that the Holy Scriptures and the dogmas are divine.
Q. Is this the whole of the Modernist theology ? A. In this the Modernist theology may be said to reach its completion. A slender provision, in truth, but more than enough for the theologian who professes (p40).. that the conclusions of science, whatever they may be, must always be accepted! No one will have any difficulty in making the application of these theories to the other points with which We propose to deal. *
- The Sovereign Pontiff seems here to declare that it were superfluous to follow the believer and the theologian as well as the philosopher in what concerns the branches of the faith, as he has done for the faith itself. That is why, after putting under our eyes the hand-baggage of Modernist theology, and showing us how easy it is to follow up the parallelism, he will limit himself, except for some passing indications, to setting forth the Modernist philosophy concerning the branches of the faith. He leaves it to us to apply the principles of theology. AUTHOR. – Cardinal Merry de Val
- The Latin word conscientia denotes all kinds of consciousness, including that which is concerned with conduct, and is called conscience. Here, perhaps, the word had better be rendered consciousness. J. F. (p41)
Q. In what does this elaboration consist? A. This elaboration consists entirely in the process of investigating and refining the primitive mental formula .
Q. Is this elaboration a matter of reasoning and logic ? A. No, they reply; not indeed in itself and according to any logical explanation, but according to circumstances, or vitally, as the Modernists somewhat less intelligibly describe it.
Q. What is it that this elaboration produces, according to the Modernist theologians? A. Around this primitive formula secondary formulas, as We have already indicated, gradually come to be formed, and these subsequently grouped into one body, or one doctrinal construction, and further sanctioned by the public magisterium as responding to the common consciousness, are called dogma.
Q. Do the Modernists distinguish dogma from theological speculations? A. Dogma is to be carefully distinguished from the speculations of theologians.
Q. Of what use are these theological speculations? A. Although not alive with the life of dogma, these are not without their utility as serving both to harmonize religion with science and to remove opposition between them, and to illumine and defend religion from without, and it may be even to prepare the matter for future dogma. (p43)
Q. What is the theological doctrine of the Modernists concerning worship and the Sacraments ? A. Concerning worship there would not be much to be said, were it not that under this head are com- prised the Sacraments, concerning which the Modernist errors are of the most serious character.
Q. Whence, according to them, does worship spring ? A. For them worship is* the resultant of a double impulse or need ; for, as we have seen, everything in their system is explained by inner impulses or necessities.
Q. What is this double need of which the Modernist theologians speak ? A. The first need is that of giving some sensible manifestation to religion ; the second is that of propagating fit, which could not be done without some sensible form and consecrating acts, and these are called Sacraments.
Q. What do the Modernists mean by Sacraments ? A. For the Modernists, Sacraments are bare symbols or signs, though not devoid of a certain efficacy.
- The Official Translation has, For them the Sacraments are, etc. a particular case, whereas the Latin has Cultum in general. J. F. f This word is used in the United States ; and the French and Italian versions also speak here of propagating, and not of ex pressing religion which were to repeat the idea of the preceding phrase. J. F. (p43)
Q. To what do the. Modernist theologians compare the efficacy of the Sacraments? A. It is an efficacy, they tell us, like that of certain phrases vulgarly described as having caught the popular ear, inasmuch as they have the power of putting certain leading ideas into circulation, and of making a marked impression upon the mind. What the phrases are to the ideas, that the Sacraments are to the religious sense.
Q. Are they only that? A. That, and nothing more. The Modernists would express their mind more clearly were they to affirm that the Sacraments are instituted solely to foster the faith ; but this is condemned by the Council of Trent:“If anyone say that these Sacraments are instituted solely to foster the faith, let him be anathema.” ;** Sess. VII., de Sacramentis in genere, can. 5
III. SACRED SCRIPTURE INSPIRATION.
Q. What, for the Modernist theologians, are the Sacred Scriptures ? A. We have already touched upon the nature and origin of the Sacred Books. According to the principles of the Modernists, they may be rightly described as a summary of experiences, not, indeed, of the kind that may now and again come to anybody, but those extraordinary and striking experiences which are the possession of every religion. (p44)
Q. But does this description apply also to our Sacred Scriptures ? A. This is precisely what they teach about our books of the Old and New Testament.
Q. Experience is always concerned with the present ; but the Sacred Scriptures contain the history of the past and prophecies of the future. How, then, can the Modernists call them summaries of experience ? A. To suit their own theories they note with remarkable ingenuity that, although experience is some thing belonging to the present, still it may draw its material in like manner from the past and the future, inasmuch as the believer by memory lives the past over again after the manner of the present, and lives the future already by anticipation. This explains how it is that the historical and apocalyptic books are included among the Sacred Writings.
Q. Are not the Sacred Scriptures the word of God? A. God does indeed speak in these books through the medium of the believer, but, according to Modernist theology, only by immanence and vital permanence.
Q. What, then, becomes of inspiration? A. Inspiration, they reply, is in nowise distinguished from that impulse which stimulates the believer to reveal the faith that is in him by words or writing, except perhaps by its vehemence. It is something like that which happens in poetical inspiration, of which it has been said: “There is a God in us, and when He stirs, He sets us afire.” It is in this sense that God is said to be the origin of the inspiration of the Sacred Books.
Q. Do they say that inspiration is general ? And what of inspiration, from the Catholic point of view? A. The Modernists affirm concerning this inspiration, that there is nothing in the Sacred Books which is devoid of it. In this respect some might be disposed to consider them as more orthodox than certain writers in recent times who somewhat restrict inspiration, as, for instance, in what have been put forward as so called tacit citations. But in all this we have mere verbal conjuring ; for if we take the Bible according to the standards of agnosticism, namely, as a human work, made by men for men, albeit the theologian is allowed to proclaim that it is divine by immanence what room is there left in it for inspiration? The Modernists assert a general inspiration of the Sacred Books, but they admit no inspiration in the Catholic sense.
IV. THE CHURCH : HER ORIGIN, HER NATURE, AND HER RIGHTS.
Q. A wider field for comment is opened when we come to what the Modernist school has imagined to be the nature of the Church? What, according to them, is the origin of the Church? A. They begin with the supposition that the Church has its birth in a double need : first, the need of the individual believer to communicate his faith to others, especially if he has had some original and special experience ; and, secondly, when the faith has become common to many, the need of the collectivity to form itself into a society and to guard, promote, and propagate the common good.
Q. What, then, is the Church? A. It is the product of the collective conscience, (p46) that is to say. of the association of individual con sciences which, by virtue of the principle of vital permanence, depend all on one first believer, who for Catholics is Christ.
Q. Whence comes in the Catholic Church, according to the Modernist theologians, disciplinary, doctrinal, and liturgical authority? A. Every society needs a directing authority: guide its members towards the common end. to foster prudently the elements of cohesion, which in a religious society are doctrine and worship. Hence the triple authority in the Catholic Church, disciplinary, dogmatic, liturgical.
Q. Whence do they gather the nature and lie rights and duties of this authority ? A. * ‘The nature of this authority is to be gathered from its origin, and its rights and duties from its nature.’;
Q. What do the Modernist theologians say of the Church s authority in the past? A. In past times it was a common error that authority came to the Church from without, that is to say. directly from God ; and it was then rightly held to be autocratic.
Q.And what of the, Church s authority to-day? A. * This conception has now grown obsolete : for in the same way as the Church is a vital emanation of the collectivity of consciences, so, too. authority emanates vitally from the Church itself.
Q. Does the Church’s authority, then, according to (p47) the Modernist theologians, depend on the collective con science ? A. – Authority, like the Church, has its origin in the religious conscience, and, that being so, is subject to it.
Q. And if the Church denies this dependence, what does it become, according to this doctrine ? A. Should it disown this dependence, it becomes a tyranny.
Q. But is not that equivalent to establishing popular government in the Church ? A. We are living in an age when the sense of liberty has reached its highest development. In the civil order the public conscience has introduced popular government. Now, there is in man only one conscience, just as there is only one life. It is for the ecclesiastical authority, therefore, to adopt a democratic form, unless it wishes to provoke and foment an intestine conflict in the consciences of mankind.
Q. The Church not yielding to this Modernist doctrine, what will happen to the Church and religion alike? A. ‘The penalty of refusal is disaster, they say. For it is madness to think that the sentiment of liberty, as it now obtains, can recede. Were it forcibly pent up and held in bonds, the more terrible would be its outburst, sweeping away at once both Church and religion.’ [City – “Obey Soul”]
Q. According to the ideas of the Modernists, what is, in short, their great anxiety ? (p48) A. ‘Such is the situation in the minds of the Modernists, and their one great anxiety is, in consequence, to find a way of conciliation between the authority of the Church and the liberty of the believers.’
END DOC 5 – Modernism – as Theologians [Doc #6 CHURCH & STATE